The Royal Academy of Engineering Africa prize has shortlisted 16 African inventors from six countries to receive funding, training and mentoring for projects intended to revolutionize a variety of sectors in Africa. The winner will be awarded £25,000 and the three runners-up will receive £10,000 each. Here’s a list of Seven noteworthy inventions:
Sign IO || Roy Allela, Kenya
Sign-IO combines a mobile app with smart gloves that track and translate sign language movements into speech in real-time. Roy Allela created Sign IO with his deaf niece in mind after observing her difficulty communicating with her family that didn’t know sign language, it is being developed in conjunction with young users with hearing and speech impediments. Hardware embedded inside the glove reads the user’s finger movements, and compares these to an internal database based on American Sign Language.
The mobile app then translates this to speech immediately – and users can set the gender, pitch, tempo and delay of the voice that represents them.
Majik Water || Beth Koigi, Kenya
Majik Water harvests moisture from the air to provide affordable, clean drinking water to off-grid communities.
The all-in-one system harvests, stores and then dispenses water. Custom built water dispensers – or water ‘ATMs’ – will allow communities to pay only for as much water as they need. While on a four-month programme at the Silicon Valley-based thinktank Singularity University, Koigi, 27, teamed up with two other women – American environmental scientist Anastasia Kaschenko and British economist Clare Sewell – while at a Silicon Valley based Thinktank to create Majik Water
Vertical Farm || Paul Matovu, Uganda
The Vertical Farm is an easy-to-build wooden farm-in-a-box designed to capitalize on waste in urban areas. Matovu and his team custom build the Vertical Farms to fit the space and needs of individual buyers, and designed the modular platform to grow typical leafy green crops used in home kitchens.
Speaking with The Guardian Matovu says “Our goal is to roll out the farms to the wealthy, because they do not mind how expensive the boxes are, and to produce three to five farms per day, then we can subsidize sales to the poor.”
Zenafri || Elizabeth Kperrun, Nigeria
Zenafri is a series of mobile apps that teach toddlers and young children basic numeracy and literacy in their own language. Teseem, the first app, teaches toddlers their first words and numeracy in vernacular languages such as Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba and Swahili. When children get old enough to follow story lines, Afrotalez narrates original stories based on traditional African folklore, with an educational element added in.
Developed while pregnant with her own child, Zenafri had been an idea of Kperrun’s for years. After recruiting a secondary school classmate to develop the app, Kperrun and colleague Eremia married, and three years later, their daughter is an avid tester of their apps.
Chanjoplus || Collince Oluoch, Kenya
Chanjoplus is an online system that helps parents and health-care workers track vaccines, ensuring children get access to life-saving medicine. Chanjoplus is built to be integrated into Kenya’s national healthcare system, and was created following extensive research with nurses, and volunteers who dispense vaccines and parents.
These records can then be pulled up by any public health clinic anywhere, making it easy to identify which children are falling through the immunisation gaps and provide real-time data on vaccination drives.
KAOSHI || Chukwunonso Arinze, Nigeria
KAOSHI is a mobile app that connects money senders across the globe. The app facilitates a peer-to-peer money swap, circumventing the need to literally send money across borders. The app tackles the high cost of transferring money to and between African countries, and the hassle of long queues at financial institutions, or buying forex on the black market.
Instead, it allows users who want to send money in opposite directions to swap between themselves, which is cheaper and more convenient. KAOSHI connects users both within and outside of Africa, allowing each to specify the currencies they want to exchange and matching them to users making inverse exchanges.
Smart Havens || Anne K. Rweyora, Uganda
Smart Havens Africa are sustainable, smart homes built from appropriate but affordable technologies, geared towards making home ownership more accessible to African women. Technologies include locally designed brickmaking that uses less material, designs that reduce temperatures in the hot Ugandan climate, custom biodigesters, and solar water and electricity installations to keep utility costs down.
A teacher by training, Rweyora began working on the idea after volunteering in South Sudan as a social worker, she felt that home ownership should be more attainable to the average working woman.